Staying Safe in Times of Cyber Uncertainty

Cloud Migration Risks

Cloud adoption has grown rapidly in recent years, and many companies are migrating to the cloud due to the significant benefits that it provides. Cloud migration is the process of moving corporate data and applications from on-prem data centers to cloud-based infrastructure. Organizations can adopt a range of migration strategies from “lifting and shifting” existing applications to the cloud to a complete re-architecture designed to take full advantage of the benefits of the cloud.

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The Importance of Cloud Migration

Some of the advantages that cloud-based infrastructure provides over on-prem data centers include:

  • Reduced Infrastructure Costs: Moving to the cloud enables an organization to outsource responsibility for its cloud-based infrastructure to a third-party provider. Since cloud services providers (CSPs) can distribute some costs across their customer base, moving from on-prem data centers to the cloud can reduce an organization’s infrastructure costs. Additionally, the organization moves from a CapEx model (where hardware infrastructure is purchased up-front and then depreciates over time) to an OpEx model (where virtual hardware infrastructure is “rented” from the CSP and paid for monthly according to metered usage).
  • Outsourced Management: One of the major selling points of the cloud is that the CSP takes over responsibility for managing an organization’s underlying IT infrastructure. This can dramatically reduce overhead and resource requirements, and reduces an organization’s internal IT staffing requirements.
  • Flexibility and Scalability: Cloud resources provide greater flexibility and scalability than an on-prem data center. In the cloud, organizations use virtualized resources and can more easily expand or contract their infrastructure as needed than if they are reliant on physical infrastructure hosted on-prem.
  • Up-to-Date Technology: In the cloud, the cloud provider is responsible for maintaining an organization’s underlying IT infrastructure. CSPs have access to the latest technology, optimize their systems, and roll out updates rapidly across their infrastructure.
  • Availability and Resiliency: CSPs are bound by service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee a certain percentage of uptime. To meet these SLAs, CSPs implement backups and redundancy that ensure that an outage at any datacenter does not impact the availability of hosted data and applications. A CSP has the resources to offer greater availability and redundancy than most organizations can achieve in-house.

Common Risks in Cloud Migration

Cloud infrastructure has been near-universally adopted because it provides access to business critical infrastructure and eliminates the overhead of on-prem hosting. However, it does come with risks. Some of the most common issues that organizations face during their cloud migration include the following:

#1. Not having a cloud migration strategy

One of the biggest risks of cloud migration is attempting to make the move without a clear, detailed cloud migration strategy. When making the move to the cloud, an organization must make several important decisions, including:

  • IT Asset Distribution: Different data and applications are best suited to being hosted on-prem or in public or private cloud environments. Most organizations select a hybrid cloud model and distribute their assets across private and public clouds and on-site infrastructure. A cloud migration strategy should include a breakdown of the assets that should be hosted in each environment.
  • Cloud Platform(s) to Use: Several cloud providers exist and each offers many different options, all of which are designed and optimized for different purposes. Before making the move to the cloud, an organization should identify the platform(s) best suited to its use cases.
  • Application Deployment Model: The cloud provides new application deployment options, such as serverless applications and containers. When preparing to migrate to the cloud, an organization needs to decide whether it will “lift and shift” applications designed for on-prem environments to the cloud or re-architect applications to take full advantage of the benefits of the cloud.

Not making these and other important decisions in advance can increase the cost, duration, and complexity of a cloud migration process. Also, making the wrong decisions can create significant security risks, such as storing or processing sensitive information in a public cloud environment.

#2. Complex existing architecture

In an on-prem environment, complex architectures are workable. Intra-site network latency is relatively low, so an organization can support a complex array of databases and applications without significant performance impacts.

When moving to the cloud, a complex existing infrastructure can put the success of the cloud migration at risk. Some of the potential impacts include:

  • Extended Migration Process: If an organization’s on-prem architecture is complex, developing and implementing a migration strategy will be a complex process. Organizations will have to develop a strategy for migrating their IT resources to the cloud without negatively impacting performance or security.
  • Reduced Performance: If an organization’s infrastructure is distributed between on-prem architecture and multiple cloud environments, then latency is much higher than in an on-prem environment. As a result, complex architectures with significant interconnectivity between assets hosted in different locations will suffer degraded performance when moving to the cloud.

Cloud infrastructure offers new architectural options, such as serverless applications. If an organization has a complex architecture, cloud migration provides an opportunity to re-design and re-architect an organization’s complex infrastructure.

#3. Selecting the wrong cloud service provider (CSP)

Different CSPs have offerings with different features and strengths. For example, organizations looking for a general-purpose cloud might choose AWS, those that use LDAP and Active Directory may benefit from Azure’s built-in integration with these systems, Oracle Cloud specializes in databases and data management, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) has strong data analytics capabilities.

The “right” cloud for an organization depends on its unique use cases. If an organization chooses a CSP that does not align with its intended uses, then it might not be able to extract the full value from its cloud migration and may face significant performance issues or a complex migration while trying to implement its required functionality in a non-ideal environment. Trying to fix these issues by migrating from one CSP to another can result in additional expenses and overhead.

When planning a cloud migration, an organization should thoroughly research the available options and ensure that their chosen cloud provider implements their required functionality and can support any necessary third-party solutions. Many organizations choose a multi-cloud infrastructure that provides optimal environments for various resources and use cases.

#4. Long Migration Process

Many organizations’ IT environments have grown up over several years within an on-prem environment. Applications and infrastructure designed for on-prem deployment do not always translate well to a cloud environment.

As a result, an organization’s cloud migration process may be extended as it works to re-architect systems and applications for cloud environments. In general, a cloud migration can take a year or more. 

Some impacts of an extended cloud migration include:

  • Productivity Losses: As companies move through the cloud migration process, their IT infrastructure will pass through intermediate states as some resources are migrated to the cloud while others are still waiting for their turns. Since these intermediate states are unlikely to be optimized, an organization can suffer significant losses to performance and productivity that can hurt it and its customers.
  • Security Risks: In addition to potential productivity impacts, an organization’s move through intermediate states of cloud migration may carry security risks as well. If security policies and solutions are not updated in sync with cloud migration, corporate data and applications may be exposed to attack.
  • Resource Utilization: Cloud migration consumes a great deal of time and other resources. An inefficient cloud migration strategy may waste resources, increasing the cost to the business.

An extended migration process can hurt an organization and its customers. Before beginning the migration, a company should carefully consider its migration strategy and attempt to optimize performance and security throughout the entire migration process.

#5. Data Breach

Throughout the cloud migration process, an organization must ensure that data and applications are secure. While a company may have a pre-migration and post-migration security strategy, this is not enough to protect its resources.

The organization will transition through numerous intermediate states as data and applications move to the cloud. If an organization’s security strategy does not adapt to provide adequate protection at each of these intermediate steps, then attackers may be able to steal data or exploit applications while the organization is in a vulnerable state.

A corporate cloud migration strategy must incorporate a migration security strategy. This includes plans for ensuring that corporate data and applications are appropriately protected at every stage of the migration process.

#6. Unexpected cloud costs or monthly sticker-shock

Making the move to the cloud can dramatically decrease an organization’s infrastructure costs. By outsourcing the management of an organization’s underlying infrastructure to a third-party provider, an organization can take advantage of the cost savings of its CSP’s optimizations and economy of scale.

However, an organization can only take full advantage of the cost savings of the cloud if its IT infrastructure is designed for the cloud. If an organization “lifts and shifts” legacy applications to cloud environments or purchases oversized service packages, then the cost of the cloud may exceed the cost of hosting the same infrastructure on-premises.

Additionally, “as a service” infrastructure means that an organization pays for what it uses. It is often difficult and complicated to monitor ongoing cloud costs, so cloud costs often spiral out of expectation, until the monthly bill arrives.

Cloud migration can be a tradeoff between short-term costs and long-term benefits. Designing and optimizing architecture and applications for cloud environments can reduce overhead and costs in the long term.

Mitigation of Cloud Migration Security Risks with CloudGuard

Securing a cloud migration process can be difficult. As a company moves through the cloud migration process, it passes through many different intermediate states as applications and data transition gradually from on-prem to cloud-based environments. Protecting an organization’s data and applications against exploitation requires frequent updates to the corporate security architecture to ensure that its resources are properly protected at every stage of the process. Performing a cloud migration both efficiently and securely requires an integrated security architecture that enables an organization to seamlessly update its security throughout the migration process.

A secure cloud migration starts with a secure cloud architecture. Check out Check Point’s Cloud Security Blueprint for guidance on designing a security architecture for your organization’s cloud infrastructure. Then, read these Best Practices for Secure Cloud Migration to learn how to secure your data and applications throughout the migration process.

After designing a secure migration process, your organization needs solutions capable of implementing it. Check out this buyer’s guide to learn about selecting a cloud network security solution. You’re also welcome to sign up for a free demo of Check Point CloudGuard to see how it can help to streamline and secure your cloud migration.

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